Heartwarming footage shows brave children who survived cancer ringing a bell to signal them leaving hospital for the last time.
Surrounded by a ‘guard of honour’ including their families and the staff who nursed them back to health, young cancer survivors at Bristol Children’s and Great Ormond Street hospitals are applauded as they celebrate the end of their gruelling treatment.
Four-year-old Oscar, from Wednesbury, West Midlands, who was diagnosed with cancer of the soft tissues last year, endured chemo, surgery and radiotherapy to combat his disease, and was finally able to ring the bell after receiving 28 rounds of radiation in Germany.
His mother Cheryl said: ‘As a family we have been to hell and back, but Oscar in true superhero style has shown tremendous courage throughout and has never complained.’
Every day, 12 families in the UK are told their child has cancer, with 10 youngsters tragically passing away from the disease each week.
Oscar, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, endured chemo, surgery and radiotherapy to combat disease, and was finally able to ring the bell after receiving 28 rounds of radiation
Olivia May McDonald is another one of the brave cancer survivors who was able to ring the bell
Sam Sharland also beat the disease that tragically kills 12 children every week in the UK
WHAT ARE THE WORDS OF WISDOM OF TERMINALLY-ILL CHILDREN?
A doctor who cares for terminally-ill children revealed the heart-wrenching words of wisdom of youngsters before they die in February 2018.
Dr Alastair McAlpine, from Paedspal Cape Town paediatric palliative care, tweeted saying young patients often wish they had spent less time worrying and more time at the beach, reading books or eating ice cream.
Many youngsters are also concerned about how their parents will cope when they are gone, with one saying they will see their father again soon and another asking God to take to take care of them.
Dr McAlpine also notes no children, who were aged between four and nine, said they wish they had spent more time on Facebook, watching television or fighting with people.
After feeling there were not enough uplifting stories on Twitter, Dr McAlpine, who started working in palliative paediatric care in May 2017, posted dying children’s thoughts on life, which have been retweeted more than 50,000 times.
He told the BBC: ‘The best part of my job now is that I get to meet these extraordinary children and families. I walk a special road with them.’
Although Dr McAlpine struggles to see youngsters die, he adds it is rewarding to give them a dignified, pain-free passing, saying: ‘If I can make their lives slightly less bad, it’s worthwhile.’
He also believes maintaining a relationship with deceased children’s parents is a compliment to the standard of care he provides.
Although Dr McAlpine can find the negativity of his work overwhelming, he finds inspiration from the strength of the children’s parents.
‘Oscar has been our rock and got us through the darkest days’
Oscar, who was born healthy in 2014, was diagnosed with a cancer of the soft tissue, known as rhabdomyosarcoma, in June 2017.
Within days of his diagnosis the youngster was admitted to hospital to start the first of 13 chemotherapy sessions.
Months later, doctors surgically removed Oscar’s tumour, however, he still needed to travel to Germany for a specific form of radiotherapy to reduce the risk of his cancer returning.
Cheryl said: ‘We lived in Germany for seven weeks while Oscar received 28 sessions of therapy while under general anaesthetic, five days a week.
‘This was Oscar’s final course of treatment and on our return to the UK he finally got to ring the end of treatment bell.
‘It’s Oscar who has been our rock and got us through the darkest of days when it should have been the other way around.’
‘Cancer taught our family to make the most of life’
Sam Sharland, 10, from Woking, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2013 at just five years old after suffering pains in his neck and hip.
After more than three years of treatment at The Royal Marsden, Sutton, Sam finally rang the ‘end of treatment bell’ after his final round of chemotherapy in April 2017.
His mother Tamsin said: ‘Sam is thriving now. It took a couple of months for his strength to return and he had a difficult time with a few side effects.
‘A long summer holiday break and a trip to France to see our friends really helped.
‘Cancer has taught our family to make the most of life.’
‘Our vision is a world where no child dies of cancer’
Mark Hooley, from Children with Cancer UK, which arranges for such bells to be placed in hospitals, said: ‘Our vision is a world where no child dies of cancer.
‘Childhood cancers are different to the cancers in adults, so it’s crucial we continue to invest in innovative new treatments like precision medicine that could improve survival rates in even the hardest-to-treat cancers, reduce the burden of toxicity for young cancer patients and help keep families together.
‘The end of treatment bell is a symbol of the world we are helping to create.
‘The only way we can increase survival rates and find out why children get cancer is by investing in cutting-edge research.
‘We won’t stop our work until every child cancer sufferer gets to ring the end of treatment bell.’
Surrounded by a ‘guard of honour’ including family and the medical staff who nursed him back to health, Arthur Styles rang the bell to celebrate the end of his treatment
Arthur makes up part of the 87 per cent of children who were expected to beat cancer in 2017
Olivia May is one of the approximate 35,000 childhood cancer survivors living in the UK
How many children are diagnosed with cancer in the UK?
In the UK, cancer is the most common cause of death for children aged one-to-14, while the disease causes the second highest number of fatalities after road accidents in teenagers.
Brain tumours kill more children than any other cancer, with one form of the disease, known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, having no cure.
In 2017, around 84 per cent of children with cancer were expected to survive, compared to just 64 per cent in 1990.
The approximate 35,000 childhood cancer survivors living in the UK is expected to grow by around 1,300 a year.
Patients typically face a five-year wait after finishing their treatment before they are declared cured.